Textured Vegetable Protein aka TVP is a wonderful plant-based ingredient to use in ground beef recipes. I’ll show you how. But what is TVP exactly? How to cook with it? Is it healthy, or gluten-free, or vegan? What kind of easy TVP recipes should you try first? To find the answers to those questions, please read on.
What is TVP?
TVP is a dehydrated ingredient that you can use in place of meat in vegan and vegetarian recipes. This product has helped thousands of people who wanted to change their diet to vegan or vegetarian but wanted to keep the texture of meat in their food. I personally think that TVP is the closest you can get in terms of texture to real meat.
Is TVP soy?
TVP is actually an abbreviation for Textured Vegetable Protein. However, you may come across the word Textured Soy Protein (TSP) or Soy Meat or Soybean Meat as well.
Brands and also recipes use it interchangeably as the most commonly used vegetable is soy. However, I read that textured protein can be made of cottonseed, corn, wheat, peanut, pea, oats, and similar proteins as well. But the general understanding is that when you see TVP it is usually 100% soy-based.
How do they make TVP?
I wanted to find an answer for myself too for the question “Is TVP healthy?”. My goal was to understand how it is manufactured to decide whether I want to use it or not in the kitchen. I don’t like the term processed ingredients as you always need a certain degree of processing to consume anything. So I wanted to know what degree is TVP processed. I have read a couple of “quite scientific” and detailed articles by FAO.org and ScienceDirect, but here is what I have learned:
- The word “textured” means that they change the physical texture of an ingredient to a meat “texture” to mimic visible fibers, chewiness, elasticity, tenderness, and juiciness of the meat.
- The basis of TVP is usually flour. If you check the ingredients on the packaging of TVP, you will see that it says 100% soy flour. It can also be protein isolate, but that is another level of processing, so I usually go with with flour-based products.
- TVP is processed via steam texturization which is a kind of pressure cooking.
The steps of TVP manufacturing if you are interested:
- They mix soy flour with water into a thick paste.
- Then they push this paste through a grinder, which is actually a high-pressure cooker.
- The paste is rapidly heated, then the pressure is suddenly released to evaporate the water.
- Depending on the nozzle at the end the dehydrated paste is formed into chunks, flakes, nuggets, grains, and strips.
Is TVP healthy?
So what do you think of TVP? Healthy is certainly a relative term and can mean different things to different people. When it comes to health and nutrition, I turn to Dr. Greger’s Nutritionfacts.org website. He has many articles about Soy, click and read on if you are interested in more info.
But one thing is indisputable, TVP is high in protein: ¼ cup (24g) contains 12g protein with zero gram of fat. Half of its weight is protein. The rest is mostly dietary fiber (4g) and carbs (3g). No surprise there, seeing how it is manufactured.
Is TVP gluten-free and vegan?
As a textured protein can be made of soy, cottonseed, corn, wheat (never gluten-free), peanut, pea, oats (sometimes gluten-free), and similar proteins, my first instinct is to check the labels. If we are talking about TSP (textured soy protein) which they commonly call TVP, then yes it is usually gluten-free and vegan. As the main and only ingredient is soy.
Where to buy TVP?
You can find several brands producing TVP. What I look for in the packaging is a label saying “No GMO”. As I also need to eat gluten-free, I check whether it is also labeled as “gluten-free”. You can buy them in large stores or online. They sell them in different shapes (chunks, nuggets, flakes or crumbles, and strips) as well as with different vegetable bases.
- Bob Red Mill’s TVP (crumbles)* made of soy flour (GF, but according to their website it is not verified non-GMO)
- Anthony’s TVP (crumbles)* – made of soy flour (non-GMO and GF)
- Noble Plate’s TVP (crumbles)* made of pea protein (non-GMO and GF)
- Hooiser Hill Farm TVP (chunks)* – made of soy flour (GF, but they cannot guarantee non-GMO)
How to cook TVP?
The golden rule of working with any TVP products is soaking and squeezing.
It doesn’t matter if you use crumbles, or chunks, or nuggets. You ALWAYS soak them first. You can use water, but because TVP tastes pretty neutral, soaking them in broth will give them a deeper flavor. Vegans and vegetarians go with veggie broth, but anybody else you can use beef, chicken and other broth types as well.
Usually 10-15 minutes in hot veggie broth is enough to get them ready. Don’t forget to squeeze the water out before continuing with your chosen recipe. And talking about recipes. How to use TVP? Well, here comes our favorite main dish recipes with TVP.
10 TVP recipes you should try first
Whenever a recipe is calling for ground beef, minced meat, or crumbles, just think of TVP. We have 10 perfect dinner or lunch recipes using TVP for you to try first: meatballs, lasagna, moussaka, chili, curry, taco, goulash, and even sausage crumbles and bacon bits. It is hard to say which one is the best tvp meal. So, grab a spoon and let’s dig in, shall we?
I say these are the meatiest vegan meatballs with Italian seasoning. It is chunky, not mushy with a crispy outer crust. Making them is super easy, just follow this Vegan TVP Meatballs recipe and bake them oil-free in the oven or in an air fryer. Add them to your spaghetti and coat it with a generous amount of Vegan Marinara Sauce. Or turn it into TVP meatloaf.
If you need vegan minced beef for your lasagna, you should try TVP. Even meat-eaters will not able to tell the difference. Look at this gorgeous Vegan Cabbage Lasagna. We used cabbage leaves instead of pasta (but you can switch it back if you want). Prepared some bolognese ragú with TVP and a creamy spinach alfredo sauce (a leafy green twist to our Vegan Cashew Alfredo Sauce). It was delicious!
We offer 3 different vegan minced meat alternative for our Vegan Moussaka: 1) a walnut-cauliflower mince like in our Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese, 2) a lentil bolognese ragú like in our Vegan Lasagna) and 3) TVP ground beef in chunky marinara sauce (pictured below). If you want the meatiest alternative, choose number 3.
Vegetarian Chili with Beans and TVP
TVP is perfect for chili recipes vegan or vegetarian. Just soak, squeeze, and add to your favorite chili recipe. TVP soak up the flavors from the sauce perfectly. We have this absolutely rich, flavorful, and delicious Vegan Bean Chili. Hint: there is even chocolate in there. 🙂 We love using millet as a plant-based and gluten-free ground meat, but it would be perfect with TVP as well.
Vegan White Chili with TVP and Beans
If you haven’t tried white chili before, you should. This gorgeous Vegan White Chili by My Quiet Kitchen is meaty, thick, and creamy with a bit of kick from fresh jalapeños. Protein-packed, rich and delicious what else would you want from a TVP chili?
You can’t really say no to a thick and spicy curry, can you? Red lentils and TVP are the main ingredients seasoned to perfection. Serve this Easy Vegan Red Lentil Curry by My Quiet Kitchen with naan bread and rice and have yourself a delicious dinner in 30 minutes. Or you can try also our Chickpea Mushroom Curry with TVP as well.
Do you have a recipe for tacos night? This spicy vegan taco meat is burst with flavors. The meaty texture is exactly what you need to fill your tacos, burritos, salad bowls, tamales, or add them on top of nachos. Check out this 5-ingredient Vegan Tacos by Fresh Off The Grid recipe that you can make super quick.
American TVP Goulash
Try this Vegan American Goulash by Zardy Plants with TVP which is more of a pasta dish than a stew. But it is definitely a hearty, cozy comfort food for cold days. TVP will add the perfect meat-like crumbles and some extra protein to fill you up.
TVP Sausage Crumbles
Check out this gorgeous Penne Pasta with Kale & TVP Sausage Crumbles by No Sweat Vegan. You can make homemade Italian sausage crumbles in 20 minutes using TVP and the right combination of spices and herbs. Adding a rainbow of veggies and these spicy crumbles will turn a simple pasta dish into a dinner feast.
TVP Bacon Bits
You have no idea how easy it is to make Vegan Bacon Bits by Vegan Blueberry if you have TVP at home. With the right combination of spices, you will need like 10 minutes. Then you can add to your favorite meals like this Vegan Mac and Cheese, or this Loaded Vegan Nachos, or this Vegan Frittata. You can use it as topping for your favorite soup like this Vegan Cauliflower Soup, or this Roasted Broccoli Sweet Potato Soup.
More ingredient guides
We have been writing more and more guides for specific ingredients that are important in a vegan diet. We explain in detail how to prepare each ingredient, how to cook with them, what to serve with them, and so on. Here are some of the other articles you might be interested in or check out our Vegan Recipe Roundup Gallery for even more ideas.
- Guide to Cooking with Eggplants
- Guide to Cooking with Oyster Mushrooms
- Gluten-free Pantry Guide
- List of 90+ Gluten-free Flours